STILLWATER — The Cowboys have hit a tough stretch of their nonconference schedule, and it isn’t exactly going to plan.
Oklahoma State fell to Xavier 77-71 on Sunday as part of the Big 12/Big East Battle. The loss drops the Pokes to 6-3 and propels Xavier to 7-1.
Things started well for the Pokes, as they shot 55% from the field in the first half and led 39-35 at the break. However, Xavier was able to slow OSU’s offense by mixing in some zone looks. That added to the fact that Xavier got to the foul line 31 times to the 16 times OSU got there spelled doom for the Cowboys.
Here are five thoughts on the game.
1. The Glass-Cleaning Musketeers
The Cowboys got beaten fairly soundly on the glass, which is unusual for a team that has the length and athleticism the Pokes do.
OSU lost the rebound battle 42-33. Xavier had 14 offensive rebounds, which accounted for 12 second-chance points. The Cowboys actually shot a better percentage from the field, but it ended up not mattering, thanks in part to the work Xavier did on the boards.
“That’s not even our identity as Oklahoma State,” senior guard Isaac Likekele said. “We don’t let teams just come in here and crash the glass. That’s not what we do. We’re always the aggressors, different things like that. So we got to tighten that up, for sure.”
2. More Zone Talk
If this is your first rodeo this season, OSU has not played well against zone defenses.
The Cowboys are athletic but haven’t shot well enough to bust said zones, and that happened again Sunday.
Xavier played man throughout the first half, leading to a 39-35 OSU lead at the break. But then the Musketeers swallowed their pride and showed a zone look to the Pokes and were able to leave GIA with a win. By my count, Xavier played zone on 14 possessions. During that time, OSU was 4-for-11 from the field (36%). That’s six percentage points lower than the Pokes’ game total of 42%.
Xavier coach Travis Steele said the Musketeers hadn’t played zone at all this season but after watching film from the Cowboys’ previous games, this was the time to bring it out.
3. Anderson Picking Up Scoring Load
Avery Anderson had a rough start to this season, a season that he was expected to take a big step in, but little by little he has gotten going.
Anderson scored a season-high 26 points on Sunday on an efficient 10-for-18 shooting. In OSU’s past four games, Anderson has averaged 16 points a contest and shot 52% from the field. His performance Sunday was made all the more impressive by the fact that he had only two turnovers. He dropped 17 points against Wichita State but had a six turnovers.
“I don’t worry about guys who work,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “Work wins, and that kid works as hard as anybody I’ve ever been around.”
4. Welcome Back, Woody
Woody Newton hadn’t played since OSU’s game against Charleston against Nov. 22, but he got in as a zone-buster hit a few shots.
In just eight minutes on the floor, Newton went 2-for-5 from 3-point range to finish with six points. He also brought in a pair of rebounds and had a steal. His +1 made him one of only four Cowboys positive in plus/minus.
“I’ve been wrestling with the idea of trying to figure out how to get Woody in a real game situation like this today,” Boynton said. “Today the opportunity presented itself, and I’m glad he showed he was ready.”
5. A Week to Regroup
Having suffered back-to-back losses, the Cowboys now have more than a week off from games. Their next outing is Dec. 13 against Cleveland State.
It’s a time for OSU to access its struggles in recent weeks and get healthy. Boynton said Bryce Thompson is dealing with a hip injury, and Keylan Boone has a back injury.
But this is a time in which the Cowboys can dive deep in the film in order to better understand their struggles against zones and a time where a few can find lost shots.
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